Tag Archives: HIV vaccine

About those “Cure for HIV” articles

hiv-cured

Recently in the news, papers, news organisations and other world media are reports of ‘groundbreaking trials’ testing a possible cure for HIV.  Everyone’s talking about it, scientists, people of faith, doctors, the public, HIV experts, me, you!

It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a cure, after all, it’s what we’re hoping for, it’s our goal.  The reason we exist is to challenge and fight HIV.  I honestly smile everytime I see a HIV Cure article yet I’d never expect to be writing the phrase ‘The Cure for HIV has Finally Arrived” because alas, it hasn’t.

Make no mistake, we’d made significant advances – there’s been reports of babies being cured of HIV, we’ve used Caner Drugs to eradicate HIV, we’ve cut HIV out of DNA and we’re even experimenting with our  own genome now! And we did it again with the CRISPR study!

Many methods are being developed and tested to eradicate the virus, scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Yale University have made a breakthrough in the fight to eradicate HIV, by figuring out how to train immune cells to locate and destroy mutated forms of the virus.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is the Nobel laureate who co-discovered the HIV virus she said back in 2012 the a cure for HIV is in sight.  HIV is an aggressive virus, mutating, copying and hiding within us, in some studies, it can take just 2 weeks overcome our best attempts to edit it out of

glow-cat-007

Glowing cats to cure HIV – We’re not making this up, I promise!

our cells.  Nevertheless, we continue to find innovate ways to experiment and combat the virus (Green Glowing Cats Anyone)?

Why are we linking to all these Cure Articles? – Well the message is simple.  There is no cure for HIV so it’s premature for the media to suggest this, what is missing is the real message.  While there is a real hope for people living with HIV today, a cure is a long way off.   Always temper a ‘cure article’ with some common sense, they may simply be functional lab cures, not for the human race.

It’s not all doom and gloom, recently scientists may have discovered a way to spur the human body to create antibodies capable of blocking the HIV virus.  It’s early work, but we’re trying to rewrite some rules of vaccine development to overcome the extraordinary challenges of HIV.

However, we need to slow down, and get some perspective.  To quote a famous professor of HIV pharmacology: “We need more data.” We need to take stock, get the facts right, and allow for scrutiny of the case by the scientific community.

Other than the potential of Dr Persaud’s research to stimulate further investigations, then, what is the best thing that can come of all this media frenzy?

So what then is the best thing that can come out of all the media frenzy in reporting a cure for HIV?

The great hope is that this moment represents the greatest mass HIV awareness campaign since the Don’t Die of Ignorance ‘tombstone’ campaign of the 1980s. Rarely does HIV make such headlines, and we have a real chance to educate people whilst their interest is piqued.

We must tell people that the story of HIV is very different now, and we must take this opportunity to communicate new messages through the media whose attention we currently have – messages which can correct people’s out-dated misconceptions.

  • Let’s talk about testing, and the importance of early diagnosis.
  • Let’s talk about effective drugs, which when prescribed early enough can help a patient live a long and full life.
  • Let’s talk about condoms and prevention.
  • Let’s Tell people about PEP and PReP and let’s ensure our NHS will fund PrEP.
  • Let’s tackle stigma!

Today there is no reason for anyone to be born with, or acquire HIV but people are still being diagnosed.  Leicester has a 13.8%  higher late diagnosis rate than the rest of the country.  Sadly, 590,000 babies every year are still born HIV-positive in the developing world: an unnecessary tragedy.

We can do something about that right now, with the tools we have – If we increase testing and make it more regular and consistent. In the UK, 95% of women take the HIV tests during pregnancy. And with effective treatment the chance of the baby being born positive is less than 0.5%. We should be aiming for the same success all over the world

Above and beyond a media storm about a supposed ‘cure’, there are good news stories we can make happen today.

Is the ‘cure’ story exciting? Yes. Is it scientifically plausible? Yes. Will it stimulate more research? Almost certainly. But it is extremely premature to hail it as a cure that will translate into routine clinical care any time soon. We need much more data.

So if you or your child are HIV-positive, then please… don’t stop taking your tablets. And if you have had unprotected sex, take the test. Condoms, education, testing, and access to treatment are our real weapons against HIV, and we need to learn to use these correctly if we want to make a real impact today.

STOP BEING AFRAID OF HAVING A HIV TEST!

For some people the idea of being tested for HIV is as simple as making a note in a calendar, an entry which sits comfortably beneath a dentist appointment and above a mother’s birthday. For others, the idea of making that appointment, or taking that long walk to the clinic, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they can imagine. However, in an age where the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are increasing, has our natural fear of the unknown become a luxury we simply can’t afford?

Many years ago it was a scary disease. We called it AIDS and it became a name associated with sin and death. The massive number of infections, particularly in the gay community, were staggering, and as the death toll slowly crept up, nations across the world panicked. It’s impossible for any society to come through such a dark time and emerge unscathed, and so the fear of a silent killer left a scar on our cultural memory which has never really healed, and the mere mention of HIV and AIDS still has a way of stopping conversations.

Thankfully, things have changed since then and treatment for HIV and AIDS is better now than it has ever been. People who have the condition are now finding that their lives have not changed completely, and they are still able to live as long and do all the same things they could before. It’s true that they now have a few additional concerns to think about but with the help of medication, HIV is now manageable.

The truth is that it’s very easy to get ‘caught short’ in life and sometimes that leads us to take risks when we know we shouldn’t. The true test is when we make these mistakes, we have to make sure that we take the time to know our own status, since it doesn’t just affect us, but also the people we care about. HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be and people are able to live normal, healthy and happy lives like they did before. However, this is thanks to the amazing progress we have made in treating the condition and we can only begin to do that when we make the decision to get tested and keep on top of our health. It’s a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life

what are you waiting for?

Get yourself tested.  Go to your doctor, go to the GU clinic, buy a home testing kit online or apply for a free home sampling kit. – Have questions or want someone to talk you though the process? We offer offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test (results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test)!  We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories.

You’re reading this because your either clued up to sexual health and HIV advocacy or someone has shared this article with you.  If you’re the former, you probably don’t need this message, so share it to people who havn’t got round to having their HIV test yet.

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Something to #Celebrate: Good news in #HIV #Vaccine Research!

Scientists may have discovered a way to spur the human body to create antibodies capable of blocking the HIV virus. Researchers at institutions around the United States said in five studies published Thursday in the journals Cell, Immunity and Science that they had made an important early step toward developing a vaccine for the disease.

“It’s early work, but we’re trying to rewrite some rules of vaccine development to overcome the extraordinary challenges of HIV,” William Schief, director of vaccine design for the Neutralizing Antibody Center at the Scripps Research Institute’s International AIDs Vaccine Initiative, said. “In a collaborative effort we have reached critical milestones, including the first proof ever that immunization with designer proteins can produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. The new results strongly support further developing these approaches toward testing in clinical studies.”

There are still some major challenges before clinical studies on humans can begin. To put it simply, HIV is difficult to combat because it attacks the very immune cells sent out to fight it. When the body is successful in fighting it (usually with the help of drugs) the virus is really good at hiding dormant until the next opportunity to stage a comeback. Traditional vaccines haven’t worked to fight HIV but this new research shows that so-called “broadly neutralizing antibodies” are capable of controlling or preventing infection from a range of HIV strains and researchers think these special antibodies are the key to formulating a vaccine.

But for it to be effective the vaccine would have to be much better than nature. Only about 10 to 20 percent of people infected with HIV develop the antibodies on their own and it can take years for them to develop. This new vaccine would have to coax the human immune system to act differently. The researchers were able to spur this kind of reaction in mice whose immune systems mimicked components of the human immune system.

Vaccines aren’t the only way scientists hope to address the HIV problem around the world. Other approaches — including one that resulted in the only known case of HIV being cured, stem cell transplants — are being looked at.

Want more?

Here’s another link on the same story: New vaccination strategies coach immune system to make HIV-neutralizing antibodies

Thanks for reading, let us know what you think in the comments below, or you can find us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram!

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HIV scientists launch 23 million euro project to develop vaccine

needle-vaccine-syringe-vial

A new 23 million euro initiative to accelerate the search for an effective HIV vaccine begins today.

Financed by the European Commission, the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020) brings together leading HIV researchers from public organisations and biotech companies from across Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA in a focused effort to develop protective and therapeutic HIV vaccines.

Story via
iclogo

According to the World Health Organisation, around 35 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013. Over two million people are newly infected every year, and it is estimated that around 22 billion US dollars is spent yearly on HIV treatment and care. An effective vaccine remains the best hope of ending the epidemic.

Although researchers have been working on developing a vaccine for 30 years, recent advances are helping to speed up their quest. Scientists have isolated antibodies that are able to block HIV infection in preclinical models, and there have been new developments in using synthetic biology to design better vaccines.

The EAVI2020 consortium, which is led by Imperial College London, unites scientists from 22 institutions, pooling their knowledge and expertise to develop novel candidate vaccines that can be taken through to human trials within five years. EAVI2020 is funded with an EU grant under the health program of Horizon 2020 for research and innovation.

Professor Robin Shattock, Coordinator of EAVI2020, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “Creating an effective vaccine against HIV represents one of the greatest biological challenges of a generation. This project creates a unique opportunity for us to build on the enormous scientific progress gleaned over the last few years, providing an unprecedented insight into the nature of protective antibodies and anti-viral cellular response that will be needed for an effective vaccine. We now understand much more about how humans make protective immune responses and how to structure vaccine candidates. We have a level of understanding at a molecular level that was not previously available.

“But it is impossible for one group or institution to create an HIV vaccine on its own. This new project should enable us to move much more quickly. It brings together a multidisciplinary team of molecular biologists, immunologists, virologists, biotechnologists and clinicians, providing the breadth of expertise needed to take the latest discoveries in the lab and rapidly advance them through preclinical testing and manufacture, into early human trials.”

At Imperial, researchers will be looking at how healthy human volunteers’ immune systems respond to potential vaccines, studying the antibodies that the volunteers produce. The researchers will explore the pathways in the body that make these antibodies, in order to fine-tune candidate vaccines.

Dr Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Director of the Health Directorate at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission said” In its dual role of policy maker and research funder, the European Commission has played an essential part for over thirty years in supporting HIV vaccine research. Despite major global investments in the field and the promising progress, several scientific obstacles have to be overcome to develop novel promising HIV vaccine candidates. It is with this in mind that the European Commission is providing an almost 23 million Euro grant to the EAVI2020 consortium from which we have high hopes for success. This will allow European scientists to work together and in collaboration with researchers from outside Europe to successfully develop predictive tools and better vaccine candidates to be tested at an early stage of the process”.

The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 681137.

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HIV Antibody Discovery Opens Door to Better Vaccine Design

A study from researchers in South Africa describes how a specific change in the outer coating of HIV in two infected women enabled them to produce deadly antibodies that are able to kill up to 88 per cent of HIV types from around the world. The discovery provides important information about how HIV escapes the immune system, and it is hoped it will help researchers to design better vaccines.

Will we ever have a HIV vaccine? (lass.org.uk)

Antibodies that recognise HIV and prevent it from infecting cells are a crucial element of immunity to the virus, but so far researchers have not been able to achieve this with vaccines. This is partly because the virus is highly skilled at escaping from antibodies by changing the appearance of its outer coating.

It has been known for some time that some HIV-infected people naturally develop antibodies that recognise many different types of the virus. Over the past five years, researchers from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) have been studying HIV-infected people to understand the mechanism behind how these individuals are able to generate such broadly neutralising antibodies.

The team focused on two women in particular and found that their antibodies recognised a specific feature of the outer coat of the virus that was not present in the virus that they were initially infected with. The virus seemed to have changed its coat in response to antibodies that were produced earlier in the infection to try to escape immune attack; however, this shift revealed a vulnerability that enabled the women to produce more powerful antibodies that are capable of killing many different HIV types from around the world.

Dr Penny Moore, a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine and lead author of the study, said: “Understanding this elaborate game of ‘cat and mouse’ between HIV and the immune response of the infected person has provided valuable insights into how broadly neutralising antibodies arise.”

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of CAPRISA, said: “Broadly neutralising antibodies are considered to be the key to making an AIDS vaccine. This discovery provides new clues on how vaccines could be designed to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies.”

The study was published this week in the journal ‘Nature Medicine’. (click to read)

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The quest for a HIV vaccine

Credit: UNAIDS

There is broad scientific consensus that getting to zero new HIV infections will require an HIV vaccine. Modelling shows that even a partially effective HIV vaccine can save many lives and dollars over time.

Although a vaccine to prevent HIV could be the tool to quicken the pace to reach the end of AIDS, the quest for an effective vaccine has until now proved elusive. The very nature and variety of the human immunodeficiency virus has meant that it has resisted most attempts to quell its spread and scientists and vaccinologists the world over are focusing efforts on finding solutions.

Exciting recent developments in HIV vaccine research are instilling hope around finding an effective vaccine. In 2009, results from a trial in Thailand—RV144—showed a 31.2% vaccine efficacy in preventing HIV infections. Although only modestly protective, the results instilled new hope that an HIV vaccine could be found and made available for populations around the world most in need of a vaccine.

The results represented a significant scientific advance, and were the first demonstration that a vaccine can prevent HIV infection in a general adult population. It was a discovery of great importance and has been followed by more encouraging data in the last couple of years.

Data presented in the past year has been presented on the protective immune responses that were stimulated by the Thai vaccine trial.  Trials are now planned to see if an RV144-like regimen will protect against a strain of HIV infection found in South Africa and against HIV acquisition by people at higher risk of exposure, specifically men who have sex with men.

UNAIDS and the US Centers for Disease Control worked closely with modelling teams to estimate the impact of the RV144 regimen in different countries and with different populations and found that 10% of infections could be prevented if the same 31% efficacy was found in people who receive the vaccine. This shows that a modestly effective HIV vaccine could add to the prevention toolbox of partially effective methods, hastening the decline of the HIV epidemic.

These and other advances in HIV vaccine development—including the design of new tools and technologies for vaccine delivery—have boosted optimism in the field about the prospects for the development of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine.

However, early data from the HIV Vaccines and Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group is showing that a downturn in HIV vaccine funding that began in 2008 continued through 2011. The quest for effective HIV vaccines is a long-term investment in both the product (vaccines) and in the people who will develop, produce, market and support them. Investments in research and trials are essential and can bring benefits far beyond the AIDS field.

The need for a vaccine to prevent HIV is clear.  There are in excess of 34 million people living with HIV, and every day more than 7000 people are becoming newly infected with the virus. Although a vaccine may not provide the magic bullet to end the AIDS epidemic, it would provide an additional tool to add to the robust package of HIV prevention options which are now available.

UNAIDS will continue to work with multiple partners––scientific communities, national and international AIDS research agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, private foundations, member states, and affected communities––to push the HIV vaccine agenda forward and ensure that the quest for a safe and effective HIV vaccine continues.

Original Article via UNAids

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Will we ever have an HIV vaccine?

For around 30 years we have lived under the spectre of HIV. In the early 1980s, the mysterious appearance of symptoms that would later be known as AIDS led to unprecedented efforts to unmask the cause. On 23 April 1984, Margaret Heckler, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, told the world that scientists had identified the virus that was the probable cause of AIDS. She was correct. She also said that a vaccine would be “ready for testing in approximately two years.” She was wrong.

Images by Wellcome Images/Flickr.

Despite 28 years of research, there is still no vaccine that provides effective protection against HIV, and in that time around 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes. To understand why creating a vaccine is so hard, you need to understand HIV. This is no ordinary virus. Scientists who study it speak of it with a mix of weary frustration and awed reverence.

The virus is the most diverse we know of. It mutates so rapidly that people might carry millions of different versions of it, just months after becoming infected. HIV’s constantly changing form makes it unlike any viral foe we have tried to thwart with a vaccine. “Almost every vaccine that’s been developed protects against a small number of strains,” says Gary Nabel, Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Vaccines train the immune system to recognise part of a virus, creating a long-term armada of antibodies that seek and destroy the invader, should it ever show its face. For HIV, the most obvious target is gp120, the surface protein that it uses to attach itself to human cells. But gp120 also constantly changes shape, making it difficult to recognise. It also comes in clusters of three that are shielded by bulky sugar molecules, hiding it from the immune system.

On top of that, HIV targets immune cells, the very agents that are meant to kill it. And it can hide for years by shoving its DNA into that of its host, creating a long-term reservoir of potential infection.

So, creating an HIV vaccine is like trying to fire a gun at millions of shielded, moving targets. Oh, and they can eat your bullets.

Uphill struggle

So far, nature has provided little reassurance that a vaccine against HIV is even possible. For virtually every other microbe, there are people who naturally recover from their infections. “Nature itself provides the proof-of-concept experiment. It has told you that the body can inherently do this,” says Anthony Fauci, an immunologist who heads NIAID. But when it comes to HIV, “we have the astounding reality that, with more than 30 million people living with the virus, there is not a single documented case of someone mounting an immune response to completely eliminate the virus from their body.” Some people have the right genetic qualities to keep the virus in check, but no one clears it.

Given these challenges, it should be no surprise that vaccine research has been, to quote one researcher, a “Sisyphean onslaught of disappointments“. Only three potential candidates have made it through clinical trials. Vaxgen’s AIDSVAX vaccine, consisting of two fragments of the gp120, failed to provide any protection. Merck’s v520 vaccine, consisting of a harmless cold virus carrying three HIV genes, fared even worse. It was meant to marshall immune cells called T-cells to kill off infected cells. It failed. Worse still, the trial had to be stopped early because vaccinated people seemed to be more susceptible to infections, for reasons we still do not fully understand.

The only sliver of success came in 2009. A Thai trial of more than 16,000 people – the largest one yet – had been testing a combination of two vaccines: a bird virus containing three HIV genes, which was meant to prime the immune system, and a tweaked version of the AIDSVAX vaccine to act as a booster. Since both vaccines had failed individually, critics argued that the trial was a waste of time and money. But to many people’s surprise, the combination reduced the risk of infection by 31% – a statistically significant effect, though too low for a useable vaccine. (For comparison, the measles and polio vaccines are around 95% effective).

Some scientists were sceptical about the results, noting that the protection was short-lived and confined to people at low risk of infection. Others saw a ray of hope after years of frustration, a sign that a vaccine is in principle possible. Either way, the trial was confusing, especially since the vaccines did not reduce the levels of virus in infected people. Scientists are still trying to work out why the vaccine had any effect at all.

Renewed hope

But despite the muted results from existing trials, scientists in the field are unfazed. The reason, according to Wayne Koff from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, is that since the Thai results were announced, “the field that has begun to undergo a renaissance.”

It turns out that many HIV patients carry secret weapons – “broadly neutralising antibodies” – that can attack a wide range of HIV viruses. For these patients, it is too late. Their infections are already in full swing and the virus can mutate around their defences. But the discovery proved that HIV’s vaunted diversity is not the roadblock for vaccines that many scientists feared. If we taught the immune system to make these antibodies early, we could destroy the virus before it gained a foothold.

It is possible to isolate the right antibodies because we now know the shape of HIV’s surface proteins, down to the atomic level. Nabel used this knowledge to identify parts that stay the same while the rest of the virus shifts and mutates. These non-mutating regions are likely to be vital areas that cannot change without causing problems. He searched patients’ blood to find antibodies that target these conserved regions, and cells that make those antibodies. In 2010, he found three: two of which could neutralise 90% of HIV viruses. Other scientists, such as Dennis Burton of the Scripps Research Institute, have made similar discoveries using similar methods.

Nabel’s vision is a cocktail of these super-antibodies that target different parts of the virus, cutting off its evolutionary escape routes. He hopes to start clinical trials of his first-generation antibodies by early 2013, and he says is close to producing a second-generation of even heavier hitters that he thinks are two to three years away from early trials.

Vaccine researchers are also working on ways of stimulating our T-cells to kill infected cells at an early stage. This was the strategy behind Merck’s failed v520 vaccine, but scientists have since found better ways of smuggling viral genes into cells, and targeting them at the tissues most likely to be infected first. Both approaches would be complementary: “I think we would need a combination of broadly neutralising antibodies and a broad and robust T-cell response,” says Koff.

Compelling need

There is no telling when, or indeed if, these strategies will yield results, but what is certain is that the need for a vaccine will not diminish. There are many ways of preventing HIV infection, including condoms, microbe-killing gels, and the use of treatments as soon as people get infected. “We’d be going in the right direction with the tools we already have,” says Fauci. “But if we added a vaccine to the toolkit, even if it wasn’t 90% effective, you could have a major additive effect. There really is a compelling need for one.”

It may seem frustrating that decades of research have yielded nothing that satisfies this compelling need. But everything in the pipeline has depended on a steadily accumulating knowledge of the virus over those years. And as much as we know about the virus, and our immune response to it, there is still a great deal to learn. Also consider this. It took 47 years to create a vaccine for polio after the microbe behind it was identified. The measles vaccine took 42 years. The hepatitis B vaccine was a positive sprint at 16 years. “Twenty-eight years isn’t an inordinate amount of time,” says Fauci.

via: http://io9.com/5910946/will-we-ever-have-an-hiv-vaccine

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This 90 Percent Successful Vaccine May Be Our Best Chance to Eradicate HIV/AIDS

Dr Esteban

Spanish researchers have completed the first human trial of a new vaccine against HIV. It has been successful in 90% of the HIV-free volunteers during phase I testing. This vaccine brings great hope to eradicate HIV forever.

The team lead by Dr Mariano Esteban, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council‘s Biotechnology National Centre, has been working on this method since 1999. They are using an attenuated virus called the MVA-B, a variation of the Modified Ankara Vaccinia, which was previously used to eradicate smallpox. The Modified Ankara Vaccinia also forms the base of other vaccines. The B refers to the HIV-B, the most common HIV subtype in Europe.

Dr Esteban’s team inserted the HIV genes Gag, Pol, Nef and Env in MVA’s genetic sequence. In 2008, they tried the resulting HIV nuke on mice and monkeys. It was a complete success.

SUCCESSFUL HUMAN TEST

The first human test results were published in Vaccine and Journal of Virology. In the experiment, scientists injected the vaccine in 24 of 30 HIV-free volunteers. Six volunteers were treated with a placebo vaccine—they didn’t experience any effect. But 90% of the treated subjects developed a very strong immunological response against the HIV virus. 85% kept the immunological reaction for at least one year, which is really good news.

According to their results, there were no significant secondary effects in any of the patients, which was one of the major objectives of to be tested in this clinical trial.

Despite the success, Dr Esteban is cautious:

“The treatment has only been tested on 30 volunteers and, while the vaccine provokes a powerful response in most of the cases, it’s still to soon if the resulting defense would be effective against an actual HIV infection”.

The team will now start another phase I trial, injecting the vaccine in HIV-infected people. The objective of this trial is to test the therapeutical effect of the vaccine in these patients.

According to Dr Esteban, “in principle, the immunological profile of MVA-B satisfies the requirements for a promising vaccine against the HIV, like the creation of antibodies and the activation of key cells in the defense against the virus.” Sadly, it is still far away from commercialization: they need to test this on phase II and III trials, injecting vaccinated volunteers with the actual HIV virus on a larger scale.

Hopefully, one day, this vaccine will nail the HIV nemesis down.

Original Article by Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo

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